The   co-creator   of   Crossroads,   and   society   patron,   Peter   Ling shares some of his memories with the Crossroads Fan Club. How   did   you   and   Hazel   Adair   originally   come   up   with   the idea for Crossroads? In   1964   Hazel   and   I   were   writing   a   twice-weekly   soap   for   the BBC,   set   in   the   offices   of   a   women's   magazine   -   Compact   - which   proved   to   be   very   popular,   and   while   that   was   running,   Lew   Grade   (then   the   head   of   ATV)   -   asked   us   to   go   and   see   him.   He   was   about   to   launch   a new   soap   from   the   Birmingham   studios,   and   since   we'd   had   a   success   with   Compact   he   wanted   us   to   nurse   the   programme   for   a   few   months,   to   get   it   up and running. He'd   already   bought   an   outline   from   a   Birmingham   journalist   [Ivor   Jay,   who   later   became   script   editor   on   the   series]   it   was   to   be   set   in   a   city   centre boarding-house,   I   believe,   but   he   would   only   need   us   for   about   6   months   -   once   the   project   was   up   and   running,   we   wouldn't   be   involved.   Hazel   and   I exchanged   glances   and   said   this   didn't   really   appeal   to   us;   we   would   only   want   to   work   on   the   new   soap   if   we   devised   it   ourselves   and   stayed   with   it   to provide the storylines. Lew   lit   another   of   his   gigantic   cigars   and   thought   this   over   for   a   moment,   then   said:   'Today   is   Friday   -   go   away   and   come   up   with   an   idea   of   your   own,   and bring it to me on Monday morning - and if I like the look of it.. Well, we shall have to wait and see about that!' We   spent   a   busy   weekend,   working   on   ideas;   the   boarding   house   setting   didn't   seem   very   attractive. At   that   time   I   lived   near   Brighton   and   Hazel   lived   near Dorking,   and   I   suddenly   remembered,   on   one   of   my   cross-country   journeys,   I'd   driven   past   a   signboard   advertising   the   opening   of   a   new   'Motel'   ...I   had   a rough idea of what Motels were, from various American movies, but this was the first one I'd come across in England. Hazel   warmed   to   the   idea;   at   least   it   would   be   something   new   and   different,   and   might   even   have   a   touch   of   glamour.   So   we   worked   on   a   rough   outline, suggesting   that   the   Motel   should   be   run   by   a   friendly   middle-aged   widow   with   a   couple   of   growing   children   -   and   we   jotted   down   ideas   for   possible storylines,   involving   various   guests   who   would   come   and   go.   On   Monday   morning,   we   went   back   to   ATV   as   soon   as   the   office   opened,   and   found   Lew already   behind   his   desk   -   he   began   work   early   every   day.   He   lit   another   cigar   and   read   the   whole   document   in   silence,   while   Hazel   and   I   crossed   our fingers. At last he put the outline down and said simply - 'OK - you're on.. we'll do yours.' In   the   beginning,   Hazel   and   I   worked   together   on   the   storylines   and   a   good   many   of   the   scripts,   but   as   Compact   was   still   running,   we   had   to   divide   our forces   in   order   to   keep   our   sanity   -   and   although   we   churned   out   each   week's   quota   of   storylines,   we   soon   collected   a   small   team   of   writers,   who   followed our storylines and worked on the scripts, dialogue, stage directions, etc. How differently did the programme develop from your original idea? I   can't   really   answer   this   question   -   as   you   say,   original   ideas   have   to   be   developed,   and   they   take   on   a   new   life   of   their   own. They'd   soon   become   very   dull if they didn't! How would you explain the massive popular appeal of Crossroads? By   comparison   with   'Coronation   Street',   (solidly   working-class)   and   'Compact'   (trying   to   be   upper-middle   and   sophisticated)   'Crossroads'   covered   a   wider spectrum - the basic family group, the working staff, plus the travelers passing through - it had to appeal to everybody. In retrospect, do you think it was a mistake to axe Noele Gordon in 1981? I   don't   really   want   to   say   too   much   about   this;   Nolly   was   already   enormously   popular   with   midland   audiences,   having   hosted   for   a   long   time   a   very successful   midday   chat-show,   'Lunchbox',   but   she   was   keen   to   have   a   chance   to   act   again;   and   was   delighted   when   we   named   her   'Meg   Richardson'   -   one   of her stage successes had been the musical 'Brigadoon' - in which she played 'Meg Brockie.' But   she   had   been   involved   with ATV   from   its   inception,   and   was   something   of   a   power   in   the   land.   Now   she   was   a   leading   lady,   and   she   used   to   lay   down the   law   from   time   to   time;   not   surprisingly,   many   directors   (and   producers)   found   her   difficult   to   work   with.   I   don't   know   what   caused   the   final   showdown, but it did not come as a great surprise when we heard that her contract had been terminated. On the other hand I have to say that a large number of our audience loved Nolly, and felt that the linchpin of the serial had been lost with her departure. Crossroads was criticised by some for its allegedly wobbly sets. How would you answer this criticism? Wobbly   sets?   Yes,   initially.   The   reason   was   that   the   ATV   studios   in   Birmingham   were   too   small   to   accommodate   all   the   sets   Crossroads   needed,   so   in   the early days they hired a disused cinema in Aston and turned it into a makeshift studio. With   time   and   space   at   a   premium   they   could   not   build   permanent   sets   but   had   to   hire   'flats'   (made   for   swift   scene-changes   in   theatres)   which,   being   made of   canvas   stretched   over   wooden   frames,   did   tend   to   wobble   and   sway   a   little! After   a   while   they   enlarged   the TV   studios,   making   room   for   permanent   sets with no wobble - unfortunately, the legend never died. The series went into something of a decline in the late 1980s- to what would you attribute this decline? The   last-but-one   producer   we   had   -   and   a   great   pleasure   to   work   with   -   was   Phillip   Bowman,   from   Australia.   He   came   in,   determined   to   give   the   serial   a new look, and was responsible for more and more location filming, taking the action outside the studio, and giving it a breath of fresh air. He   was   followed   by   the   last   producer,   Bill   Smethurst,   who   invited   me   to   lunch   so   we   could   'get   to   know   one   another'   and   at   the   end   of   the   meal   told   me   he would   no   longer   be   needing   me   to   provide   the   storylines,   since   he   would   be   writing   them   himself!   It   was   hello   and   farewell   -   I'd   been   sacked!   Perhaps   it may seem rather obvious if I say that I date the 'Crossroads' decline from that moment? Do you have any particular favourite storylines? I   don't   have   any   favourite   storylines,   but   we   took   a   great   step   forward   in   the   previous   years   -   under   the   excellent   leadership   of   our   long-running   producer Jack Barton, who brought in occasional storylines 'with a purpose'. For   instance,   he   introduced   a   young   character   with   'learning   difficulties'   -   not   played   by   an   actress   but   by   the   girl   herself,   and   at   the   end   of   each   episode   a helpline   telephone   number   was   given   for   viewers   who   might   need   information   or   help   in   a   similar   situation.   Since   then,   this   system   has   been   followed   by other programmes, but I think I'm right in saying that 'Crossroads' was a forerunner in the field. The new series of Crossroads (2002) is currently facing the axe due to low viewing figures - how do you think it could be improved? I'm   sorry;   don't   ask   me   about   the   'new'   Crossroads!   I   watched   the   first   few   episodes,   but   I   was   disappointed;   I   feel   that   a   great   opportunity   to   bring   the serial up to date for a new generation of viewers has been sadly lost. What do you think of the current batch of soap operas - which ones do you like? Shamefaced,   I   have   to   confess   that   I   don't   watch   any   soaps   now   -   except   'The   Bill'   which   is   almost   a   soap   these   days,   and   I   somehow   got   hooked   on   to   it. But apart from that - nothing! Do any of the old cast and crew ever meet up for reunions? I don't think the old cast ever has reunions, though I'm sure some individuals who became close friends with other cast members still keep in touch. Looking back is there anything you would have changed about Crossroads? Is there anything I would have changed? Not really. It was fun while it lasted, and I shall always have happy memories of it.
 © Crossroads Fan Club 1987-2016